Hypnotherapy is the practical application of hypnosis towards specific goals. The process involves a focusing of the conscious processes to a point where an altered state of awareness is achieved.
This state allows us into the main part of the mind, the subconscious, the ninety per cent that we normally have very limited access to but is generally responsible for all thought and behavioural patterns. While everyone can go into a hypnotic trance, and many do several times a day, hypnotisability is strongest when a person is highly motivated and has a positive attitude towards hypnosis.
The therapist will utilise the state of creative focus in order to promote change in a currently held belief. By using positive imagery and suggestion, the therapist encourages the client to concentrate upon and, therefore, consider alternative outcomes or emotions to any given event.
The general start point for any trance work is with relaxation, simply because a calm, quiet and contemplative person is more likely to drop any existing barriers and consider a new approach to learning. It is when a client is in a trance state that the subconscious is accessed – the part of the brain that drives responses e.g. causes people to look both ways when crossing the road. Since the subconscious mind is a deeper seated, more instinctive force than the conscious mind, this is the part which has to change for the client’s behaviour and physical state to alter. By accessing this part of the brain the client can calmly look at their responses and create new informed decisions as to how to react in any given situation in order to deal with it more appropriately.
When the imagination has become engaged in a specific task, the physical body will respond to it. E.g. a person who consciously wants to overcome their fear of spiders may try everything they consciously can to do it but fails as long as their subconscious mind retains the terror and prevents that person from succeeding. Progress is made by reprogramming the subconscious so that the deep seated instincts and beliefs are abolished or altered.
The hypnotherapist focuses on what positive changes the client wants to achieve, the changes they can expect and reinforces those goals whilst encouraging the mind away from the past limitations or negative thoughts as it begins to concentrate wholly on future success. The process involves continual reassessment and acknowledgement of the progress made so far.
Before the therapist engages in trance work, any misconceptions a person may have about hypnosis are dispelled. Hypnosis does not involve a person being put into a deep sleep and no one can be made to do anything they would not otherwise do. While is it not sleep per se, the process mimics the REM cycle of sleep; information is moved from the primitive brain to the intellectual brain. The person remains fully aware and is not vulnerable to every given command of the therapist. It is the person undergoing hypnotherapy who wishes to change a behavioural habit or addiction and is motivated to do so.
Rapid Eye Movement
Nature rarely gives us something which we have no use for. Early man and woman would have been at their most vulnerable when asleep. Therefore, the reward must have been great. When we sleep we enter into a Rapid Eye Movement state where we rerun the events of the day and change them from being an emotional memory into a narrative memory – one that we have control over. Either we replay the events of the day, or we substitute the event for a dream containing the same emotional response pattern the mind wants to discharge. In hypnosis, we enter into that same trance state – a state fundamentally necessary for our wellbeing. We then have access to the subconscious mind, the place where response patterns are stored. With that, the brain works enormously hard to come up with a solution to a problem that we have decided we would like.
Solution Focussed Hypnotherapy
Alongside the use of hypnosis, the very best that brain based research has to offer is employed in the consulting room through the use of solution focused techniques.
The determining factor as to which part of the brain is dominant – the primitive emotional brain (home to the fight/flight/depression area) or the intellectual brain (the part we access when we think, act and interact positively, which has enormous resources devoted to our getting the very best out of life) – is largely our thought patterns. If we think about our problems, we do not always come up with solutions. Instead, we may find that we constantly remind ourselves of what we perceive to be wrong with us. The more negatively we think, the more negatively we act and the more negative our interactions become and so on.
During the initial consultation the client will be asked what it is that has brought them to therapy. This will be the only time the ‘problem’ is focused on. Throughout each session problem talk is avoided and we are not asked to revisit old or painful memories. Whilst we can acknowledge any painful events that may have happened, the process is instead one of movement towards where we want to be by focusing on how we can get there using our wealth of internal resources.
An understanding of how the brain works is given in the context of the problem for which we are seeking a solution. The client is then provided with the opportunity to state what they would like to achieve. Immediately, our minds then operate from a more positive and healthy perspective as we tell our brain what it is we want from it. Our mutual goal then is to achieve what we have determined success to be. And we will.
Subsequent hypnotherapy sessions involve significantly more than hypnosis. During each session progress made is discussed where the client will be encouraged to express themselves positively, focusing on outcomes rather than problems. All sessions are outcome orientated, enabling a more positive and constructive perspective on life.